First Sandy Hook Paddle of the Year

By Vladimir Brezina

This past weekend, it suddenly felt like summer in NYC. How better to celebrate than with one of our favorite paddles? On Sunday, we paddled from Manhattan through the open waters of the Lower Bay

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down to Sandy Hook

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and back again to Manhattan…

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Here is a selection of photos from the trip.

(Click on any photo to start slideshow.)

37 responses to “First Sandy Hook Paddle of the Year

  1. I’m curious if you guys ever go do to Horseshoe Cove, or if you stay near the northern tip.


    • All of the above, depending on the time of year, weather, and whether we got going on time, relative to the tidal cycle.

      Some trips we’ve just landed near the tip, most often just down the inside from the northwest tip, where the smooth line of the beach breaks at the light tower with the osprey nest.

      But more often, including on this trip, we’ve gone a bit further down Sandy Hook Bay, to the ruined fortifications just at the north end of Horseshoe Cove. A whole post about that place is here.

      We’ve also done a Sandy Hook “circumcision”—gone down the bay side almost all the way to the entrance to the Navesink / Shrewsbury River, portaged over the narrowest part of Sandy Hook there, and launched on the ocean side to paddle back north.


  2. George Fatula

    A “cake walk” after the EC? Great day on the water! Thanks.



  3. Lovely photos. How long did the entire trip take?


    • It takes us, at a comfortable pace, about three hours down to Sandy Hook, and four hours back to Manhattan, give or take, depending on the strength of the current and on the wind. But since the whole trip is current-driven, it’s usually counterproductive to paddle the two halves of the trip back-to-back—much better to spend some time on Sandy Hook in between. So it’s basically a whole-day trip.


  4. So much traffic!


    • There was quite a bit of commercial traffic, but not really out of the ordinary. But the commercial traffic is dwarfed by the recreational traffic, just now starting. After Memorial Day the harbor will be just buzzing with little, and big, motor boats.


  5. Looks like a beautiful day. Love the shot of the gull over the yellow buoy.


  6. What a lovely scene!


  7. Oooh, aaaaah! We love the lighthouse and sunsets especially!


  8. Such beautiful lighting! I was in NYC about a year and a half ago and took a cruise, but I must say seeing the sights via Kayak looks even more appealing ;)


  9. Stunning pictures and great activities :)


  10. Hey Vladimir, I’ve always wanted to do this trip but haven’t yet. Curious what time you departed from Pier 40 in the morning and when you started back in the afternoon. I would assume you took advantage of the ebb tide at the Battery, which began about 0920 Sunday (hit its max at 1330). And would guess you wanted to hit the Narrows at as close to max ebb there, which was at 1138. On your return you’d want to time it to be during the flood at the Narrows (height at 1738) and then flood at the Battery (height 1848). I’ve circumnavigated Manhattan several times so am familiar with the currents all around it but not the lower bay and the Narrows. Your pics are always gorgeous and appreciate the blog and trip reports.


    • Hi, Davis,

      All good questions!

      In planning the trip, we usually look up the currents as described here. To get going as early as possible, so as to have the maximal amount of time to explore Sandy Hook, we try to leave at the beginning of the ebb current in the East River (at Hell Gate, or down at the Verrazano Narrows: the times are similar). On Sunday, that was around 8 AM. In the event, we didn’t launch until around 9 AM. Oh well… But up to a point, it doesn’t matter that much, because the strengthening ebb current makes up for the late departure.

      We got to Sandy Hook around 12:30 PM. We landed at the “island” of ruined fortifications at the northern end of Horseshoe Cove, ate lunch, took a nap in the sun, visited our friends the fiddler crabs in the marsh behind

      and got back on the water around 3 PM, the beginning of the flood at the Narrows. We got back to Pier 40 around 7:30 PM.

      The currents in the Lower Bay, especially near the tip of Sandy Hook, both on the way down and on the way back, are a little complicated. I keep meaning to write up a “how-to” on paddling down to Sandy Hook… One of these days I’ll get to it. In the meantime, this swim report will give you an idea…

      Altogether, Johna’s GPS said we did 36 nautical miles (about 41 land miles). I would have guessed around 33 nautical miles, since it’s about 30 nautical miles if you land at the tip of Sandy Hook, but we went farther and I guess we meandered around a bit :-)


  11. Thanks for those links Vladimir, I’ll give them a read, surprised I had not read them before as I’m a fan of your blog. I’ve always just gone straight to the NOAA tables themselves for various stations to determine the current for the trip intended. I look forward to trying these out. Actually, I now start my trip planning with an iPhone app called Ayetides, which I double-check against the tables (I had a bad experience relying on the app alone a few years ago —- the makers claimed there had been an error in some of the NOAA data that threw off their estimates for a couple of the Hudson River stations I normally plan my trips around (which most often begin at the 59th Street boat ramp, my home port, whether north or south). And herein is a good point to reiterate for your readers (you have made the point quite a few times, including that planning post you link to above) — it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to fight the tidal currents when at their maximum while in a human-powered craft. That goes for many locations around NYC. A case in point for me was the day referenced above. I was returning from a trip north to the Palisades beyond the GW and expected a near effortless paddle back to 59th Street on a strong ebb. My app was off by two hours. Luckily I had padded the trip but my last hour and a half was spent going against what turned out to be a 2.8 km/h flood. During that hour and a half all I covered was the distance between the boat basin on 79th Street and 59th Street; a mere 20 blocks! I was in and had only one kayak at the time, a big two-seat Folbot Greenland II, which is not terribly sleek or fast as it is.


    • The NOAA tables are fine, actually (apart from any errors, which are always possible, though very unlikely)—most if not all of the other sites use exactly the same basic data, just packaged in different ways.

      The main point of the first link in my reply to you was simply that it’s simpler to look up the currents rather than the tides. Sure, you can index everything to the tide height at the Battery, for instance, but that requires an extra step. And it’s not simply that, as many people assume, the currents are necessarily flooding on a rising tide and ebbing on a falling tide. At the Battery, there are quite a few hours in the cycle when the current is flooding in the East River but simultaneously ebbing in the Hudson, or the converse… But you know all that!

      It is actually possible to paddle against the current anywhere in the harbor, if you have to, but it can be hard work. But it can be a lot of fun—rather like paddling up a fast river… :-)


  12. I can really feel the water in these photos – such clarity and the glisten – and well – another great collage – :)


  13. Hello Vladimir,
    Nice to meet you and to come across your blog… It is original and the photos are remarkable…
    Such a great experience… So close to the Big Apple’s heart…and yet, somehow, far away from It…
    Best wishes, Aquileana :P


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